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Catch a Fire Essay

The book “Catch a Fire” is a beautiful description of the Jamaican culture, the Rastafarian faith, the growth and development of reggae music and how it all added up to make Bob Marley’s life. All of those elements of what made Bob Marley “human” will be talked about and explained in this paper. The best artists are the ones who have passed but there work still lives on and Bob Marley left an unforgettable mark on modern music, both as a reggae creator and as a cultural icon.

His beliefs and values helped him become a part of the Rastafarian faith and grow into a great musician whose music is still listened to today. The author, Timothy White, did an amazing job describing Bob’s background giving his readers a much greater appreciation for Marley and his music. Jamaicans are often stereotyped as carefree and fun loving. While most Jamaicans do value a sense of humor, as well as music and dance, they also have a tradition of hard work and a strong respect for education.

Bob Marley, the son of a black teenage mother and much older white father, was born in Jamaica in the village known as Nine Miles. Born early in 1945, Bob was raised by his mother and relatives and was always surrounded by tales of mysticism and spiritual beings of the Jamaican culture that influenced his daily life. Around the time Bob was born, in 1944, Jamaicans gained the right to vote because of the new constitution. (1) During this time the population grew and there weren’t much job opportunities, leading to an expanding slum population.

Class, color, and ethnicity were a big deal in Jamaica and would play a huge role of where you would fit in, work, or even shop. Bob once said, “I don’t stand for black man’s side, I don’t stand for white man’s side, I stand for God’s side. ”(2) The Jamaican history has not been a peaceful one, but its struggles have created one of the strongest cultures. The Rastafarian faith was one of the biggest influences of why Bob’s music and the way he lived was the way it was. It all started with Marcus Garvey, who was responsible for bringing Rastafarianism to the islands.

Garvey was famous for the saying “Look to Africa…” (“Catch a Fire” pg. 8) This statement set the stage for what will be the making of Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism got so popular that when Haile Selassie came to Jamaica in 1966 over 100,000 Rastas surrounded his plane. The late 1960’s is when Bob truly began to find himself and accept his religion and put its beliefs into his songs like “Rastaman Vibration” and “Jah Live. ” Not only did the Rastafarian faith help Bob with his music, it helped him find who he really was and grow as a person.

He finally started to see the beauty in life. Marley started making music in ska and Rock Steady then eventually moved towards reggae as his music evolved. Much of Marley’s early work was produced by Coxsone Dodd at Studio One then he signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records label in 1971. Marley’s music was one of the main reasons reggae was accepted outside of Jamaica. Although Bob couldn’t escape all the troubles of the ghetto, without music, he would have been right there in Kingston with those rude boys and bad men causing trouble.

Music brought out the best in Bob and showed him the true values of life. The “King of Reggae”, Bob Marley made such an impact on the music industry with his creativity and passion he put into his music and performances. As you can see, Bob would have never made it happen without his Jamaican cultural background, his Rastafarian faith or his love for music. His thinking and beliefs were always voiced in his songs speaking of love, peace, equality and his spirituality. And, after almost three decades since his death, his music is still listened to by millions of people around the world.


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